Updated: Feb 27, 2020
The decision to travel to Mauritius was born from the unique combination of a desire to lay on a beach and random island searches on google maps.
The year was coming to an end, and though we thoroughly enjoyed our time in The Maldives, Dubai and Greece, it had been too long since we just bummed on a beach. (To be fair, the Maldives did have a beach, but we spent most of our time in the over-water bungalow or in the water). The search began in The Caribbean, to islands we had not yet explored, but the threat of a sargassum-covered beach turned us away. One night, I clicked on virtually every island visible on google-maps and quickly researched if it was a viable option. Mauritius checked all the boxes. He wanted a beach, I wanted seclusion, so we searched for a hotel that offered the best of both worlds. We booked a week-long stay at LUX Le Morne, located on a less populated stretch of beach, with the Le Morne Brabant Mountain as the backdrop.
TIP: Always contact the hotel directly to make requests and inquire about services they offer. Hotels and Resorts want to make your stay a memorable one, so if you let them, they will treat you like gold. If you are celebrating anything (Birthday, Anniversary, etc.) while on vacation, be sure to let them know in advance of your arrival. Depending on the policy, you can receive special treatment and/or complimentary items.
We arrived in Mauritius in the early morning, and after an hour drive from the airport, we settled into our beachfront bungalow. As we put away our things and got ready to hit the beach, a pretty kitty walked into our back deck. She was very friendly and seemingly unafraid of us. We had nothing to give her, but she stayed nonetheless and relaxed in the shade. This sweet kitty came to visit many times over the week. We brought her cat food that we picked up at a local grocery store (and some nibbles swiped from the buffet), and she gave us cuddles in return. The sweet girl was pregnant, but had no issue jumping into our laps, letting us pet her soft fur or sleeping on us for hours. One afternoon, she slept on our deck chair and waiting for us to return from lunch (with treats of course). It felt just like being home and finding our babies waiting for us. She didn’t clean her plate every time, so we sometimes left the plate out on the deck, in case she got hungry and came back for more. One night, getting ready for bed, we saw movement outside and thought it was our kitty, but were surprised to see instead, two small Tailless Tenrecs munching on the ants the food had attracted. If you’ve never come face to face with a Tenrec, they can be described as both cute and ugly.
After a full day of soaking up the sun, our toes nestling in the white sand beach, we were mesmerized by an impressive fire show on the beach. The next morning, we headed off the resort to our first day-long excursion. Normally, once we book the basics (flight and hotel) we begin research on possible excursions and day trips. In addition to the services offered by LUX Le Morne, we discovered a nearby wildlife park, Casela, that offered “once in a lifetime” animal interactions. The more we researched, the more we wanted to experience everything possible, and eventually the excursion evolved into a full-day birthday celebration.
The day began with an interaction with a Cheetah; which consisted of one on one time with the beautiful animal, including petting and cheek scratches. The fastest animal in the world purred as we brushed our terrified hands across her rough fur. Next was an interaction with a large group of lion cubs. The cubs were approximately 9 months old, large enough to hurt you if they pounced, but young enough to want to do nothing but play. The mixture of male, female, yellow and white cubs played with each other indiscriminately; jumping in the small pool of water and tussling around in the mud. One cub in particular was very fond of a small pink ball, so much so that he got it stuck in his jaw more than once during our interaction. And like a typical juvenile, he had no intention of accepting any help in removing it. It was simply adorable.
After the cubs, we prepared for the main event; an hour long walk in the forest with lions. A small group entered a sealed forest area and waited for the lions to arrive. Walking calmly side by side, was a male yellow lion and a white female lion. We had lucked out completely. Mambo, the male, was 3 years old, large and menacing with sweet eyes. Makali, the female, was also 3 years old, but wild with energy and curiosity. The guide explained that the lions do not reach full maturity until approximately age 7, when they would be too old and confident to be taken on a walk. As “teenagers”, these lions were old enough to listen and follow, but not old enough to confidently lead. Well, that is the hope. The handlers are all aware that these beautiful creatures are wild, something that must be remembered and respected. It was clear to us how much they loved the animals. Over the next 60 minutes, we walked with Mambo and Makali, watched them climb trees, and had the unique opportunity to pet both of them. Their fur is soft, but Mambo’s mane feels like warm, dry straw. Mambo, for the most part, was calm. Makali, on the other hand, was not so interested in the walk. She left the path a few times and began stalking the group from behind the trees. The handlers coaxed her back every time, whilst we huddled together (groups are more intimidating). Eventually, the handlers decided that it was too risky to keep Makali on the walk and headed her back, while we continued on with Mambo alone. To say the experience was phenomenal would be an understatement.
After the walk, we had one on one interactions with a serval and a caracal, two of the smaller wild cats, both with huge attitudes. We had originally purchased a private safari, but due to renovations, we would only be able to visit half the area. The representatives suggested we trade the ticket for two additional interactions. The caracal did not appreciate the odor of lion on our hands and clothes and hissed at us, presenting a terrifying set of teeth as we approached. Once we pet her though, her eyes shut and she began to purr. It was a long, hot day and we were exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed, but before heading back we made one more stop to hand feed the gentle giraffes. Thank-you Casela and Safari Adventures for a fantastic birthday.
Addition (January 2020): We do not endorse or encourage in any way shape or form, canned hunting or captive breeding for the purposes of entertainment or sport. We researched Casela quite a bit prior to the experiences and did not find complaints of mistreatment or their involvement in canned hunting. That being said, even if Casela is indeed is free from this terrible behaviour, the interactions speak to the exploitation of wildlife for entertainment. We have since learned of similar wildlife parks that manipulate the public into believing that the captivity is for the benefit of the animal and the experiences help fund their conservation efforts, but in fact they participate in captive breeding, sell to canned hunting and euthanize for convenience. Though we enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the animals, the experience is tainted and we now regret the decision to support an industry that exploits the wildlife we love.
On day three, we relaxed on the beach, sipping on tropical fruit smoothies and snorkeling as much as our tired bodies would allow. The crystal clear water called to me. It was so calm that I was able to float face down and simply watch the underwater world. I did it for so long that I burnt the parts of my body that were floating outside of the water and exposed to the very hot sun. Completely worth it.
TIP: Beware of the Mauritius Wasp. They are surprisingly resilient and extremely painful. I had the bad luck of being stung twice, once in the arm and once on the tip of my finger. It is a pain I do no wish on anyone. They like to hide in shady spots during the day and are attracted to the light at night. Our bungalow had an indoor and outdoor shower (which was amazing) but the glass doors did not reach from ceiling to floor, so the wasps could fly in easily. We kept the outdoor light on at night, and they didn’t bother coming inside.
The next morning, we arose very early, walked down to the end of the property along the beach and met a boat and her two-man crew. We had arranged an early-morning private excursion to (hopefully) swim with dolphins. This is a popular activity in the area, but we were reluctant to go with just anyone. We didn’t want to join the crowds and potentially scare or harm the dolphins. Our research lead us to Karlos. Laying back on the front of the boat, we sped off to one of known spots for dolphin sightings. We arrived 30 minutes later, to find only 2 other boats in the area. The boat circled slowly and on his command, we jumped into the ocean; snorkel gear on, cameras in hand.
The first three jumps, we saw both bottle-nose and spinner dolphins for brief seconds, trying as we could to keep up with the ferocious swimmers. The fourth jump was magic. Swimming hard and fast, I approached the dolphins quickly. There were easily 20 spinners directly in front of me. I quickly snapped as many pictures as I could, but then stopped and just watched. I reminded myself to enjoy the moment. It was then that the silence overtook me and I began to clearly hear the pops and clicks. They were communicating and I could hear it. Turning to my left, I noticed my partner in crime had caught up with me (and was happy that we were sharing this moment together). Beyond him, I could see more dolphins emerging to join the pod. Below me, I could see more. I started to notice that there were dolphins of all sizes, families, swimming together. They took little to no notice of us, not seeming alarmed in any way. For a brief moment, we were completely surrounded by at least what was visibly 50-60 dolphins. Swimming together in the same direction, I felt we were accepted, together as one unit. And just as quickly, they began swimming deeper and we watched as they disappeared into the deep blue. Watching the video we captured on the go-pro, we know the experience was over in a few minutes, but it felt 10 times longer. The memory continues to leave me breathless every time I relive it in my minds eye. Reeling from the adventure, we were taken to see the beautiful floating coral and to a particularly clear area known for snorkeling.
We lounged for the next 48 hours, enjoying the luxuries offered at LUX Le Morne. Depending on the day and where set our things, the service on the beach ranged from terrible to fantastic. On the left side of the beach, there was no service, on the right side, we sometimes had to flag servers to approach us and sometimes were inundated with different servers offering free food, drinks, misting water or cucumbers for your eyes. It was very inconsistent.
On day five we arose early once again, but this time headed to the mountain. We had arranged for a private hike with a guide, to the half-way point of the UNESCO Heritage Site: Le Morne Brabant Mountain. We were privileged enough to be paired with, a local guide whose grandfather was a Shaman and who held a special connection to the mountain and it’s history. He shared our love of nature and our belief that the experience should be slow and respected. He shared the dark and tragic history of the slaves who escaped and lived in the mountain, eventually choosing to jump to their deaths rather than return to a life of slavery when police arrived to inform them that slavery had been abolished and they were now free. He shared stories from his personal history, and pointed out interesting plants along the way. We hiked slowly, often in silence, and paused frequently to enjoy the awesome view; taking in every moment. There were many who passed us, who treated the hike as nothing more than an intense exercise regime – racing as fast as they could; or those who felt the need to hike with dance music blaring from their cellphones. Why do some have such difficulty with silence? If you let it, the hike can be a humbling, spiritual experience.
During our time in Mauritius, we experienced a number of “once in a lifetime” experiences, for which we will be forever thankful. During our time on the LUX Le Morne resort, we were impressed with much but still left somewhat disappointed. The resort itself is beautiful. The food offered is unique and delicious, (we especially recommend The Beach restaurant located on, you guessed it, the beach), but this was one place where our research had lead us slightly astray. We had read many a review and resort description that listed the multitude of unique surprises that awaited us at LUX Le Morne, including a pop-up gelato bar, hidden messages in bottles, a pop-up cocktail bar, movie nights with snacks on the beach, a pop-up panama hat stand, saxophone music on the beach as the sun set and weekly champagne and sea urchin freshly caught from the ocean. Most of these experiences did indeed occur, but they were not surprises, they were set and planned for specific dates and places, which took away from the experience that was advertised. Others, unfortunately, did not occur at all.
It left us with the feeling that the LUX Le Morne resort, once a place dedicated to couples and romance, now wasn’t sure what it was. Though the services offered (spa packages, romantic dinners on the beach, etc.) lean towards couples, the majority of guests were families with very young children. It was often very difficult to find a quiet space free from crying babies. Our neighbours had three small children under the age of ten, whom they allowed to run around the resort completely naked, which isn’t something we normally associate with a luxurious vacation. Even though their clientele has changed to include more families, there doesn’t seem to be anything for the children to do, save for the one small kids club. Overall, it was a good experience, but we think LUX Le Morne should take a step back from trying to cater to all guests and decide how best to cater to one group, if not it risks eventually alienating all of them. They could also try making both groups happy by separating the resort and keeping the couples to one side and the families to the other. Either way, something’s gotta give. To the hotel's credit, I was able to very easily pre-arrange the opportunity to plant a tree on the grounds for my dad (as I have been doing on every vacation since he passed). They were very helpful and allowed me to plant a coconut palm on the grounds, directly in front of our bungalow.
Mauritius is a unique island with an interesting history and cuisine. There was so much more we would have loved to explore. Regardless of where you choose to stay on the island, or what type of vacation you are more interested in, do choose to experience as much of it as you can. Mauritius is a special kind of unique that should be experienced.